Chinese scientist allowed back in his lab after sit-in protest

Virologist Zhang Yongzhen
Virologist Zhang Yongzhen Copyright Dake Kang/AP Photo
Copyright Dake Kang/AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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The scientist had published the first sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19 in 2020.


A scientist in China has said he was let back into his lab after spending days locked outside sitting in protest.

Zhang Yongzhen was the first scientist to publish a sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19 in China in 2020 which helped lead to the development of tests and vaccines.

“Now, team members can enter and leave the laboratory freely,” Zhang wrote in a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.

He added that he is negotiating a plan to relocate the lab that doesn’t disrupt his team’s work.

He said the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, which hosts Zhang’s lab, had "tentatively agreed" to let him and his team continue their research.

Zhang had been staging a sit-in protest outside his lab since the weekend after he and his team were suddenly told they had to leave and were locked outside, a sign of continuing pressure on Chinese scientists conducting coronavirus research.

He sat outside on flattened cardboard in drizzling rain, and members of his team unfurled a banner that read “Resume normal scientific research work," pictures posted online show.

News of the protest spread widely on Chinese social media, putting pressure on local authorities.

In an online statement Monday, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre said that Zhang’s lab was being renovated and was closed for “safety reasons," adding that it had provided alternative lab space.

The scientist said, however, that the alternative offered did not meet safety standards for conducting their research.

Zhang’s dispute with his host institution was the latest in a series of setbacks, demotions and ousters since the virologist published the sequence in January 2020 without state approval.

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